By RAMONA CROFOOT
SANTA FE””Four IAIA students/alumni will be traveling overseas as part of a student exchange program with the Maori tribal college, Te Wananga O Aotoearoa (TWOA). Kim Knife Chief (Pawnee/Otoe/Kaw), Wilma Whitaker (Prairie Band Potawatomi/Cherokee), Michael Meeches (Plains Ojibway), and Garrett Tail Feathers (Blood) will be in New Zealand from May 26 to July 5.
IAIA Students As Role Models
TWOA hopes the IAIA students will serve as role models to the Maori students of what Maori students can do on an international level as indigenous people. The four will spend the first two weeks traveling to eleven different cities to visit the ten campuses of TWOA on the North Island of New Zealand. They will give formal and informal presentations on subjects related to IAIA, the IAIA Museum and contemporary Native American art to the staff and students at each campus.
For the remaining four weeks, the students will split into pairs and stay at two different campuses. During this time, they will each create a piece of artwork that will remain at the campus. Whitaker’s medium will be watercolor; Knife Chief’s will be metalsmithing; Meeches’, carving; and Tail Feathers’, beadwork. They will also participate in school activities and ceremonies.
Museum Studies Professor Barbara Lucero Sand stated, “We reviewed all of our museum studies graduates from both the two-year and four-year programs. We selected those who we thought could represent IAIA in a positive manner and are also very vocal about their ideas, culture, museum studies and their own roles.”
An Unexpected Honor
All of the students are excited and honored to be given this once in a lifetime opportunity to represent IAIA to the Maori. They are looking forward to sharing their IAIA experiences and their own Native cultures and histories while learning about the Maori’s traditional ways and culture and participating in their ceremonies.
Meeches believes this exchange will further develop the relationship between IAIA and TWOA. “We’re all First Nations people but we all have our own ways of doing things. I’m very curious about the food, the landscape, and how the Maori do things with respect to education, social, family and spiritual systems,” said Meeches.
This will be many of the participants’ first trip overseas. In addition to the cultural exchange, the students are interested in the country itself. For Knife Chief, who will be graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in museum studies this spring, it’s the waterfalls she’s seen on The Discovery Channel. Coming from landlocked Oklahoma, Whitaker is fascinated by the island nation and its surrounding ocean, as well as the relatively un-industrialized natural environment.
Of particular interest to Whitaker is New Zealand’s repatriation efforts. While doing her internship this semester at the Museum of New Mexico’s Archeological Laboratory with archivist Diane Bird, she learned that the Maori have some of the best protocols for repatriation. “I’m also interested in repatriation and archives, so I’m anxious to see what they have accomplished,” said Whitaker who is near completion of the four-year program in museum studies.
Meeches is from Long Plain First Nation, Manitoba, Canada. He is currently working on his bachelor of arts degree in museum. He has spent this past year as a pre-conservation intern with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Although the program is a year long, he will be taking leave after eight months to be a part of the New Zealand trip.
NMAI’s conservation team has been very supportive and encouraging. They see this trip as a good opportunity for him to further his education. They also want him to come back and finish his internship. Meeches has been invited to return after he graduates from IAIA to possibly help install exhibits for NMAI’s opening in September 2004.
Tail Feathers completes the group of IAIA participants. He graduated from IAIA with an associate of fine arts degree in museum studies in 1999. The other participants also received associate of fine arts degrees in either two- or three-dimensional art from IAIA and are among the first students in the museum studies bachelor of arts program.
Revitalization Through Art
IAIA Interim Museum Director Chuck Dailey is also excited about this opportunity for IAIA students. Dailey went to lunch with a TWOA representative visiting IAIA last fall. “He gave a quiet and dignified talk about their colleges and universities. Their effort to revitalize their group by art techniques sounded like the Institute forty years ago,” stated Dailey.
Copyright © 2003 IAIA Chronicle